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New SLU Partnership Provides Path to Higher Education for North County Students

On Fridays, Charles Martin III works to build a bridge from Saint Louis University to Ferguson, Missouri. The bridge isn’t made of bricks and mortar – it’s built on mentoring talented students and providing them with the tools to pursue higher education through a new partnership with the Ferguson Youth Initiative (FYI).

Charles Martin, III

Mentoring has been an important part of Charles Martin, III's life and he is now paying the positive impact of his own role models forward through a new partnership with the Ferguson Youth Initiative. Photo by Amelia Flood

A 501(c)3 organization, FYI’s mission is to empower teens from Ferguson and surrounding communities to become productive, positive and contributing members of their communities.

As part of his job as community engagement coordinator with SLU’s Cross Cultural Center, part of SLU’s Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, Martin spends his days building relationships and fostering awareness of the University’s commitment to social justice and diversity.

Many of the students FYI serves come from backgrounds where attaining a college education is not the norm. Martin and FYI want to change that, Martin said. Because these students don’t see themselves attaining a college degree or don’t know people who have, establishing mentoring relationships like those Martin nurtures with his Friday workshops, is critical.

“Just having that connection can change a child’s life,” Martin said, “I know it did for me.”

The partnership with the FYI began after a chance meeting led to conversations with FYI’s leadership about ways that the University could help prepare young people in the North County area for college life. Martin’s current work with the group includes working with students to write college essays, to complete college applications, to prepare to take the ACT or SAT tests, and to talk with them about day-to-day life on a college campus.

While the partnership is in its early stages, Martin hopes to expand its programming. He envisions college visits for the North County kids as well as collaboration with SLU campus groups like the African American Male Scholars (AAMS) program. Ultimately, Martin said the partnership’s goal is to give the students who take part in it the tools to improve their own communities and to effect positive change. The Office of Diversity and Community Engagement is collecting donations to be used to offset costs like college application fees for FYI students and other community engagement initiatives.

“These kids are great,” he explained. “They’re energetic. They’re smart. I think the best solutions to problems in the community come from the community. As the city’s university, if we can have a part in supporting those solutions, we are doing our part.”

For more information about the partnership with FYI, to volunteer or to donate, contact Charles Martin III at 314-977-9450.

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications